Mali, Italians kidnapped: “Escalation of violence complicates release channel”

To the Adnkronos Edoardo Baldaro, researcher at the Université Libre in Brussels

AND’ ” a very strong escalation phase of violence ” what Mali is experiencing, so much so that it will be ”it is difficult to open negotiation channels to free our compatriots”. Edoardo Baldaro, researcher at the Université Libre in Brussels and author of the volume ‘Jihad in Africa. Terrorism and counter-terrorism in the Sahel ‘, published by Il Mulino. And this is because ” the military junta that now governs Mali has adopted a very violent counter-insurgency approach, with a Syrian scheme and entrustment to the Russian mercenaries of the Wagner group ”. This risks closing the negotiation channel with the Jnim, a support group for Islam and Muslims, the main suspect in the kidnapping of the three Italian citizens today on the border with Burkina Faso. ” An area so far considered not particularly dangerous ”, but ” this kidnapping demonstrates how there has been a further expansion of these jihadist-Salafist groups that are in fact surrounding Bamako. ”

” The new Malian government is breaking up with all historical partners. With France, with the European Union … Italy is still present and manages to talk to the Malian government, but the situation is objectively complicated ”, he declares. ” In the area where our compatriots were kidnapped, until recently there was no knowledge of the presence of a jihadist group, active instead in the north and center of Mali ”, he adds. A test of strength of the Jnim, therefore, which with its local leadership was ” a group with which, since 2019, several Malian governments have opened to the possibility of negotiations. Because, beyond the jihadist narrative, this group because it has a local political agenda ” as well as ” its leaders are local ”.

Baldaro explains that ” the objective of the Jnim is the application of Sharia ”, but in the negotiations ” another possible solution on the table is the application for Mali of a new constitutional order such as that of Nigeria, where there are different autonomous regions that choose which civil law to apply ”. So for the Jnim ” to strangle Bamako means to force for negotiations, which the current government does not intend to do. Or start a Taliban-style operation, which not only took power with arms, but started negotiations to impose new political balances ”.

The fact that our compatriots ” were in Mali with the aim of conducting a work of evangelization, this did not help them to be well perceived by these groups ”. But, the analyst recalls, ” kidnappings are used by these groups to accumulate capital. Several Western countries still pay ”.